Adventures in Florida: Blueberry Picking in Ocoee

Hey there, readers – it’s been a while! A lot has happened since my last post, most notably that I started an MBA program and seem to know more about regression analysis these days than who’s who on The Bachelorette. It has been a wild ride so far, hopefully to be shared in another blog post soon!

Last month, as a much-needed break from studying, I decided to knock another item off my 25 at 25 bucket list. Just days before the season’s end, I took a little road trip out to Ocoee and stopped at the Tom West Blueberries U-Pick Farm.

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I may stumble in and out of the world of paleo living, but one thing is for certain: I will always love my fruits and veggies. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that – as someone who lives in a warm climate hospitable to many types of produce – I would have to go berry picking someday.

In Florida, the peak strawberry and blueberry seasons run in the early springtime from around March to May, depending on your farm and crop of choice. Tom West Blueberries is a family owned and operated farm, offering activities for all ages during the U-Pick season.

TomWestBlueberriesThe process, while simple enough, was a whole lot of fun. Once I arrived, I grabbed a bucket and hopped on a tractor, which dropped me off in the nearby blueberry fields. There I had the opportunity to taste and pick the emerald blueberries, a very large and sweet variety of blueberry that I would highly recommend to anyone who visits in the future.

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By the end of my blueberry-picking adventure, I picked and purchased about 3 pounds of delicious, perfectly blue blueberries, which I shared with friends, classmates and family over the next week. In hindsight, I wish I’d picked more so I could freeze them and enjoy even longer! Not only were the blueberries perfectly in season, but there was something so rewarding about eating something I had personally hand-picked at the farm, rather than in the grocery store. (Sorry, Publix – I still love you!)

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Whether you’re looking for fresh produce or simply a fun way to spend the afternoon, I highly recommend visiting a local U-Pick farm! The experience really does appeal to all age groups, and if I ever have children, this will be a must-visit for them too. I look forward to returning to Tom West next season, and can’t wait to visit other local farms for different U-Pick experiences soon!

What types of U-Pick farms have you visited? Share in the comments section below. 🙂

For recaps of my other bucket list adventures, click here!

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All Friends

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsNow that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season has officially begun. Hopefully all of you have survived Black Friday! Even I managed to brave the mall and come home with a few goodies this weekend. Of course, as Hanukkah and Christmas loom near, it’s important to start shopping for our friends and loved ones as well.

I absolutely love gift-giving. With so many cool and customizable products out there, I enjoy putting thought into the presents I buy rather than slapping a bow on something really generic and calling it a day.

This week, I’d like to share my holiday gift guide for all types of friends. Most of these products are ones that I either personally own, have sampled, or have purchased for someone else in the past. The best part? You can purchase any of these online in the comfort of your own home! No need to start any fist-fights at the mall this year. 🙂

  • Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Animal Lover: A custom-made shirt from Pop Your Pup!
    Pop Your Pup creates graphic T-shirts featuring pop art designs of your pets. Choose a shirt style and background color, submit a photo of your/your friend’s pet, and the graphic artists at Pop Your Pup will work their magic to make a one-of-a-kind shirt that really does look like your pet. The turn-around time is awesome, and 10% of proceeds are donated to local Humane Societies. I’ve ordered two of these shirts for birthday presents already, and they were a huge hit!
  • The Friend with School Spirit: A bottle of his or her school’s Masik Collegiate Fragrance.
    Masik Collegiate Fragrances is the brainchild of Katie Masik, who wanted to create perfumes and colognes that evoked memories of certain colleges and universities. Last year, I reviewed their University of Florida perfume and their Florida State University cologne, and even though I’m not a Gator fan, I still sometimes wear the UF perfume! The scents are inspired by the buildings, traditions and local plant-life of each university. Click here for a list of all schools represented so far to see if your friend’s school is listed!
  • Unique Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Sweet Tooth: A box of Wondermade‘s handcrafted marshmallows.
    (Paleo readers: You may want to shield your eyes for this one!) I stumbled into Wondermade one afternoon on one of my walks through downtown Sanford. The café is a local one, where patrons can buy marshmallow skewers and s’mores of all flavors that they can pair with coffee or hot chocolate. Wondermade also has an online store, where consumers from near and far can buy boxes of marshmallows in Christmas and fall flavors, as well as other unique flavors. I love to support local businesses, especially ones with such delicious products!
  • The Healthy Chick: A piece of (totally inedible) Organic Fruit Jewelry.
    Okay, paleo friends, you can start reading again. 🙂 Organic Fruit Jewelry is exactly what it sounds like — real fruit dried and preserved into jewelry! This is an eclectic and fun gift, and no two necklaces/earring sets are exactly alike. I’m obsessed with the lemon slice necklace and will definitely be investing in mine soon!
  • The Single Friend: A copy of The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry.
    I’m a nerd at heart, so reading a book that relates mathematical concepts to dating and marriage was obviously right up my alley. This is a great read for anyone — single or not — who wants to see just how applicable these theories and formulas are to our lives. I was never a math lover in school, but I really enjoyed this book! (Check out the related TED Talk if you’re curious.)
  • il_570xN.436081413_kwxfThe Sports Fan: A personalized highway distance sign to your friend’s favorite team’s stadium/arena.
    I absolutely love these stadium signs as a way to support your favorite team! You choose your team’s venue from the Travelsigns Etsy shop, and plug in the number of miles between there and your home. This a great gift for that guy in your life who still hasn’t put anything up on his wall.
  • The Harry Potter Nerd: This Golden Snitch bracelet from Ashley Bridget.
    Seriously, have you seen anything prettier? The Ashley Bridget website features other Harry Potter jewelry as well, along with other gorgeous pieces from their NFL, collegiate, sorority, fairy tale and other collections. 🙂
  • The Career Guy or Girl: A customized business card case.
    You can find these anywhere, depending on your friend’s preferences, but I purchased mine from the ChicMonogram store on Etsy. This is a great gift for someone who recently graduated from college and is just starting a new job. For nearly my entire first year at my current job, I didn’t have a business card case, and instead found myself carrying the cards around at networking events like the unpolished peasant I was. With my personalized business card case (featuring my full name, not just my monogram), I have something to store my business cards and it makes for a great conversation piece!
  • The Fancy Friend: Anything from the Downton Abbey collection at World Market.
    I am in love with this collection’s 2-tiered serving stand and tea spoons, and I don’t even watch Downton Abbey! Buy a few items from this set for your tea-loving friends who like to entertain.

How are you shopping for the holidays? Share your favorite finds in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: Falling in Love in a Gum Commercial

extracommercialHappy Hump Day, readers! I hope everyone is having a fabulous week and gearing up for an even better weekend. 🙂 This week, I kicked off a new 28-day workout program with an awesome accountability group, moved up to #1 in my Fantasy Football league, and presented as a guest speaker for a student organization at my alma mater. What have you been up to?

Enjoy this week’s batch of Link Love, and share your own favorites in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • Jane The Virgin is now back on The CW… and I still have a huge crush on Rafael Solano.
  • This cover of Hall & Oates’ Maneater performed by Grace Mitchell.
  • Receiving a Snapchat from the handsome Don Benjamin.
  • Brainstorming with my mom and sister for my exciting new Twitter project!

What links are you loving this week?

Love Your Shorts Summer Rewind: Adventures in Sanford

Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve looked for new ways to get engaged in my community. I grew up in South Florida, and while it may only be a few hours from where I live now, the two places sometimes often seem like worlds apart. Finding fun local events to attend with friends — especially those that pertain to the arts — has made my new residence feel a lot more like home.

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Sanford is a port city just north of Orlando, filled with its own rich history and well isolated from the hectic Disney World traffic. I often drive down to Lake Monroe to enjoy the beautiful view, eclectic shops and historic downtown district. From authentic German cuisine at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe to (paleo friends, cover your eyes for this!) handcrafted marshmallows and s’mores at Wondermade Dessert Cafe, the city is unique and has something to offer everyone.

Over the past two years, I’ve been using websites like Visit Seminole and EventBrite to find fun things to do in the Sanford area. The great thing about EventBrite is that not only can you sign up for events in your area, but you can also manage your own events and even sell tickets!

Back in August, while using the site, I discovered the Love Your Shorts Summer Rewind, and was immediately intrigued.

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The Love Your Shorts Film Festival takes place every year in February, but this year, they kicked off the fall with a showing of some of the best films from last year’s festival. This one-night event featured short films from all over the world of various genres — romance, comedy, sci-fi, animation, you name it!

I decided to go to the film festival with a good friend of mine, and we were not disappointed. The event took place at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center downtown, which my friend described as being “straight out of old-timey America.” From there, we moseyed over to the film festival after-party at String Theory Creations, a nearby art shop.

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The after-party had a fun luau theme, and featured a live auction. Brice and I didn’t put in any bids, but we definitely enjoyed the people-watching. (There are few things more entertaining to watch than a live auction!) We did take advantage of the many mirrors throughout the shop by snapping a few mirror selfies.

Summer Rewind

For anyone traveling to Orlando, I highly recommend you take a day-trip out to Sanford. There are so many cool events like this throughout the year, and even if you visit on a quieter day, you can still take advantage of some awesome antiquing (my favorite store is Antiques and Dustibles on First Street!), enjoy delicious food, and perhaps even convince a handsome gentleman to take you out on his boat!

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Are any of my readers from the Sanford area? What events and activities would you recommend for travelers and locals alike? 🙂